On Rashtriya Ekta Diwas, Narendra Modi slams 'previous govts' for ignoring Sardar Patel, flags off Run for Unity

While championing the message of unity in diversity on the 142nd birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel being celebrated across India as Rashtriya Ekta Diwas, Prime Minister Narendra Modi slammed Congress in a veiled attack for not giving Patel, one of the founding fathers of Republic of India, his due credit.

"People tried to ensure the contribution of Sardar Patel is forgotten. But the youth of India respects him and his contribution towards the building of our nation," Modi said while addressing participants of Run for Unity, a 1.5-kilometre special run organised to mark Patel's birth anniversary.

The run started at Delhi's Dhyan Chand stadium and concluded near India Gate C-Hexagon-Shah Jahan Road radial.

"I am proud of Sardar Patel's contribution to India before we attained freedom and during the early years after we became independent," Modi said on Tuesday.

As the first home minister of independent India and a deputy prime minister, Patel, often referred to as the as the Iron Man or just Sardar (chief), played an instrumental role not only during India's Struggle for Independence but also in helping India maintain and achieve a geographical unity post Independence. Patel used all means necessary to ensure that the princely states and the South India don't cede from India.

The central government observes 31 October all over the country as a special occasion to foster and reinforce the government's dedication to preserve and strengthen unity, integrity, and security of the nation by celebrating it as a 'Rashtriya Ekta Diwas' to commemorate the birth anniversary of Sardar Patel.

The BJP, which is the ruling party at the Centre, has always maintained that Patel, a Gujarati like Modi, never got his due credit, and often banks on him for its nationalistic campaigns. However, critics have alleged that the BJP's focus on Patel and other Gujarati and nationalistic leaders is politically motivated.

The party has also often relied on Patel's Gujarati identity (along with that of Morarji Desai and Mahatma Gandhi), not only to attack Congress and the Nehru-Gandhi family for hijacking the country's politics and its freedom struggle but also to suggest similarities between them and Modi.

The BJP reportedly launched a WhatsApp campaign earlier this week highlighting the "insults" allegedly meted out by Congress on Sardar Patel and Desai (not the first time it has said so). The campaign accused the Nehru-Gandhi family of insulting Gujarati pride while citing how Patel was never accorded a memorial in New Delhi or the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian honour.

To prove his point that Patel was sidelined by the previous Congress governments, Modi invoked India's first president Rajendra Prasad stating that the former president was not happy with the way Patel's contribution to India was neglected. "Today, Rajendra Prasad's soul would be very happy," he said, adding, "I am really happy that the young generation of the country is participating actively in this 'Run for Unity'."

"India is a country full of diversity and unity in diversity is our specialty," he added.

Modi also administered a pledge of unity at the flagging off ceremony, stating that protecting India's unity is a responsibility of not just the government but also its 125 crore population.

Earlier, Modi along with President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice-President M Venakiah Naidu, and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh paid floral tributes to Patel's statue at Sardar Patel Chowk on Parliament street in the national capital.

The 'Run for Unity' saw the participation of a large number of people, including sports personalities like Sardar Singh, Deepa Karmakar, Suresh Raina and Karnam Malleswari.

Several union ministers, senior officials, and others also participated in the event. Hockey player Sardar Singh said 'Run for Unity' is a commendable initiative to showcase country's unity and integrity.

Gymnast Deepa Karmakar said she was proud to be part of the run, which is being organised to remember the contributions of Patel in unifying the country.

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Updated Date: Oct 31, 2017 10:19:03 IST